OPINION – “I’m not prejudiced, some of my best friends are (fill in the blank).”
Amid the flare of anger ignited when the City of St. George turned off the music for a planned Halloween dance and celebration, another important issue was placed before the City Council last week that has even more importance and impact: the desire for an ordinance to protect members of the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
While a crowd danced out front of the council chambers and others awaited their turn to address the representatives about their “Footloose” policies, another group sat in solidarity.
They wore red shirts as a symbol of unity as they asked the council for protection from a homophobic world.
It’s a tossup, really, whether they will get what they want and so desperately need.
The Southern Utah LGBT community has tried before to seek ordinances that would protect it from unreasonable treatment in the housing and employment areas.
The results were, of course, predictable: no dice. Of course, what else would you expect from a bunch of narrow-minded old fussbudgets who would deny our young people an opportunity to meet socially and dance somewhere other than a church meeting hall?
It is remarkable to me that at this point, we would still have this conversation about discrimination. I thought that what this nation went through in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s had moved us to a point where we would guarantee equality for all regardless of race, religion, gender, or gender orientation.
I guess not.
That is why the city’s diversity numbers are so embarrassing as the white flight that once took place mainly from urban to suburban areas spread across state lines. St. George was on the receiving end of a number of people who migrated this way in the mid-‘90s after riots and earthquakes disrupted the Southern California tranquility. The only diversity that came from that was a slight dip in the predominance of the predominant religion in Southern Utah. Other than that? It remained, overwhelmingly, a bologna sandwich on white bread with mayo kind of place. I mean, how else would you describe a community that is 87 percent white?
The thing is, members of the LGBT community come in all colors, practice a wide variety of faiths, come from a number of socio-economic groups.
But, even though outwardly the LGBT may blend in with the mainstream, many are reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation for fear of losing their jobs, being banned from renting a home or apartment, or being generally ostracized by those who sit in judgment.
So they keep quiet, fearing the consequences of what might happen should they be outed.
That is no way to live.
It takes courage to come forward, especially in a culture where friends and neighbors would suddenly stop being so friendly or neighborly if they knew your sexual orientation.
It also must strike an incredibly harsh blow upon the LGBT community when the people elected to represent everybody are doing their best to prevent them from having the same civil and human rights as their friends, family, and neighbors.
It doesn’t impact most people in Southern Utah because of the overwhelming dominance of the culture. You already are part of the club, and almost everybody else is just like you and even if you bend or break a few rules along the way, you won’t be shunned or ridiculed by false, ugly stereotyping.
You won’t hear people whisper, as you walk away, that you just don’t belong here because you are “different.” You won’t be humiliated by a landlord or businessman who won’t rent to you or give you a job because they don’t want “your kind” around. You won’t hear “Well, if you don’t like it here, go somewhere else. We don’t want you here anyway.”
Because there are people here who do just that, St. George and Southern Utah in general must protect everybody’s civil rights.
It’s sad, after living through the era when people marched and, in some cases, were killed, during the struggle for equality, that we have to go through all of this again, but I guess it is human nature to always need somebody to look down upon, to abuse with our innate cruelty, to despise simply because they are not exactly like the rest of us, whether it is a matter of sexual orientation or race or religion.
I would still like to believe that beneath all this grit and the thick layers of ignorance, there is still beauty within humanity, that we realize, even if it is deep inside, that we have this thread that runs through all of us, that we are all in this thing we call life together.
I would like to think that we will arrive someday at a place where we no longer care who a person loves, how a person worships, or what their politics consist of and instead, welcome the diversity that adds depth and dimension to our lives.
Our world isn’t a simple thing of black and white, it is a colorful palette of many colors that add to the beauty that surrounds us, should we be open and willing to share it, because in the end, we all have the simple desire to live, love, and laugh freely.
The thing to remember is that with the changes of today’s world, we all must understand that we are part of a greater, global community that is drawn ever-closer with each passing moment.
But, we will fail as human beings if we suddenly think we can go it alone, that we can become exclusionary, that we can exercise our self-endowed moral judgment to ignore the needs of others simply because they do not walk the same, exact path.
It’s time, St. George City Council, to step up and do the right thing, and that starts by protecting the rights of everybody and not just the folks in the next pew.
- City hears request for possible nondiscrimination ordinance
- Protesters fight for their right to dance; STGnews Videocast
- On the EDge: Let those young people dance
- Sen. Urquhart plans to reintroduce nondiscrimination bill
- Short Creek discrimination escalates to hate crime status; FBI, DOJ investigating
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.